here they are:
"A Memo" by Robert Cray: The man behind the mid-'80s blues-rock song, "Smoking Gun", is back again. He gave us a similar song to "Smoking Gun" ("Won't Be Coming Home") last summer. His latest song, "A Memo", still has that "clean polished" blues-rock vibe behind it, but somehow it feels more like an authentic brand of blues than "(Won't Be) Coming Home" did. Plenty of tasty blues-y guitar licks to be found in "A Memo", as well as its organs backing it up to give it that "vintage soul" flavor. A title like "A Memo" makes it sound like an urgent song, but it's actually a love song. Dunno where Robert Cray came up with the title for this song, but at least the song itself is decent material.
"Demons" by Imagine Dragons: One of the most major (and unexpected) smashes of 2012 came from Imagine Dragons, in the form of the transcendental sounding alt-pop song, "It's Time". Since then, I've heard quite a few more songs from the oddly named Imagine Dragons ("Radioactive", "Amsterdam", "Round and Round"), yet only one other song of theirs (so far) has made it on to the adult alt airwaves, and that is their song "Demons". It honestly puzzles me to think that "Demons" is only ID's second adult alt radio hit, since the other songs I named are equally compelling ("Radioactive" has even become a hit on regular alt stations). The title alone of "Demons" indicates it's kind of a downer song, lyrically, and it certainly turns out to be that upon listening to it (especially with such cynical lyrics as, "No matter what we breed, we are still made of greed"). A far cry from the "I'm never changing who I am", positive atmosphere of "It's Time", but still a great song!
"Good Things Happen to Bad People" by Richard Thompson: Richard Thompson is, in some ways, like Neil Young's lesser-known counterpart from the British isles. He doesn't usually rock as hard as Neil does, but he does tend to drift between doing acoustic and electric guitar songs (interestingly, Thompson's newest album is even CALLED "Electric"). "Good Things Happen to Bad People" has a sound that's closer to acoustic than electric, though (except during the solo, which is somewhat Neil Young-ish), despite its album's title. Richard's songs usually have engaging, creative narratives (one of his best being "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", about an ill-fated romance that occurs because of the mutual love that the song's characters share for a vintage motorcycle). "Good Things Happen to Bad People", just from its title, seems like it would have an interesting narrative as well, and it does. The song is basically composed of fictional vignettes that all relate to jealousy. Thompson has always been clever and inventive in terms of both his music and his lyrics, and it's great to see he still has the talent for both!
"Heavy Feet" by Local Natives: When Local Natives released "Breakers" as the first single from their latest album, I was a bit disappointed. Instead of the dreamy, psychedelic neo-folk that Local Natives are known for, I got something that sounded a bit more modern and techno influenced. Thankfully, with "Heavy Feet", the second song off The Natives' latest CD, the band redeems themselves, and I get exactly what I would expect out of them, ultra mellow neo-psychedelia. I have adored the unique style of Local Natives ever since they came out around 2010, but "Heavy Feet" marks the first time I've heard them on adult alt radio. Not sure why it took 'em this long to get there, but at least they're there now! Though "Heavy Feet" is written in a major key, the sighing heave in both the vocals and the guitar of the song suggest a more lonesome, dreary emotional quality that major key songs don't often have. The chorus of the song ("After everything/Left in the sun/Shivering") only confirms the desolate nature of it. Yet, as I often say, sad songs make me happy (perhaps its the therapeutic, soothing vibe they give off?!) So "Heavy Feet" is a winner for me!
"Party Kids" by Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside: And now, we move from a sad song to a more upbeat one, and a really gritty, blues-y one, too! Previously, I only knew Sallie for being the singer that Black Prairie's lead singer did a duet with on their Christmas song, "(Everybody's Waiting For) The Man With the Bag". "Party Kids", of course, is no Christmas song, but with its bouncy, energetic sound, it sure feels like a holiday just listening to it! To add to the spicy flavor of the instrumentation of "Party Kids" are the lyrics, which gave me the impression that "party" referred to one involving alcohol and rebellion, as opposed to just an innocent, "fun" party. Then again, with the gutsy vocals of Sallie Ford, and the upfront attitude of the song, what else would you expect?!
"Running For Cover" by Ivan & Alyosha: Although Ivan and Alyosha are probably the actual names of the members of the band, it seems like even their NAME makes them sound "indie" (perhaps part of the reason why is because of the incredibly unusual name "Alyosha"). It turned out my guessing that Ivan & Alyosha were an indie band was correct, and they're a darn good one, at that! More specifically, Ivan & Alyosha are an indie-folk band, with acoustic guitar, light percussion, and an electric guitar in the background as the main instruments. The song's harmonies and acoustic guitar based sound convey a sense of sweetness, while its melody and lyrics are more fragile than that. Somehow, though, the combination of sweetness and fragility in "Running For Cover" manage to be quite a winning one!
"Upstarts" by Johnny Marr: "Upstarts" is a word that one might use to describe Johnny Marr's ex-bandmate, Morrissey, from The Smiths, who was known for being both pretentious and cynical. In the music world, Morrissey is both the ultimate deadpan snarker and the ultimate pessimist, so I was expecting something similar from Johnny Marr. What I got, though, was something completely different! "Upstarts" sounds more upbeat than most Smiths/Morrissey songs, suggesting more of a garage-rock/punk-pop flavor than the gloomy alt-pop that Morrissey typically did. If Morrissey's ultra-low baritone could be considered a male version of The Velvet Underground's Nico (which I'm sure it could), then Johnny Marr is like The Smiths' equivalent to Lou Reed. Johnny has more attitude in both his music and vocals than Morrissey, much like how Lou Reed has more of said qualities in comparison to Nico. Since Johnny was The Smiths' guitarist, it's not a rare opportunity to hear him play guitar, but it's incredibly rare to hear him sing. Having heard his voice for the first time on "Upstarts", I must say that he's pretty good at it!